Dearth of structured waste disposal mechanisms reflects a perva-sive lethargy associated with poverty and the poor. Limited understanding blinds the citizenry and policymakers to the connection between waste, hygiene, the cost of healthcare, and general life expectancy. For many Africans, wastes are worthless products that time and money should not be spent tending to. Making arrangements for disposing of wastes, sorting and recycling them are considered extravagant gestures, if not entirely objectionable and in bad taste. These values colour the general responses and policies for waste
Governmental responses have mainly remained at the level of non-interference, which could be slightly desirable if active community groups, NGOs and private sector individuals took the place of govern-ment. But very few have attempted to fill this vacuum. Nigeria’s monthly ‘Environmental Sanitation’ exercises have for over two decades been a lone initiative for awareness creation and action in the handling of domestic waste in the sub region. Recently, the passage of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) added to the lonely task of setting pace for waste management in the sub region.
But Nigeria, according to a recent United Nations Populations Fund estimate, is heading to become a projected 165million people in October 2011 with an equally daunting amount of human, industrial and electronic wastes; the country typifies how the nations will react in the near future. As disasters and catastrophes linked to poor waste management unleash themselves, policymakers in governmental and intergovernmental agencies will wake to their responsibilities. Donor agencies will look to strengthen the abilities of governments, CSOs and private companies to respond to mounting waste. The shocking waste dumping in Koko, Nigeria (1988) and Cote d’Ivoire (2006) attracted outrage that simply died down with any other more extreme political or social disturbance.
So, in four years’ time, Goal 7 is one of the millennium development goals that most countries in West Africa will fail to meet. Most nationals defecate in the open and dump non-biodegradable wastes in the few available drainage facilities. Waste will continue to be dumped and incinerated near residences; rains will wash heavy metals into waters and foods will carry them up the food chain. Health will deteriorate and congenital deformities shall be on the rise.
Interventions by development partners have to see waste disposal and integrated waste management as greater priorities than present.
–Odoh Diego Okenyodo